January 24, 2018

Deadly E. coli Cases in Pacific NW Have Officials Scrambling to Find Source

E.coli illnesses that have killed two children and left another hospitalized in serious condition have health authorities in the Pacific Northwest scrambling to find the source. At this point in the investigation, they believe two of the cases are linked but do not believe that there is a public health threat.

E.-coli microscopeThe two cases that are likely linked are Brad Sutton, 5, and his friend Serena Profitt, 4. Their families have been lifelong friends and spent the last two weekends of August together. During that time, the children swam in a pond fed by running irrigation water, shared a turkey sandwich at a restaurant and had exposure to a goat and other animals. All three are potential sources of the infection.

Symptoms of an E. coli infection, which include bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps, usually set in three to four days after exposure but can take as little as 24 hours or as long as 10 days to appear.

The children shared a sandwich on Saturday, August 30 and began to feel ill the next day. Both experienced bloody diarrhea. Serena’s family brought her to the hospital several times and she was sent home each time without being tested for E. coli. On Saturday, the Profitts brought their daughter to a different hospital where she was admitted going into shock and kidney failure.  On Sunday, she suffered a stroke and later a massive seizure. She died on Monday.

Brad, who also has kidney failure brought on by the E.coli infection, is in critical condition and on dialysis at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma. Kidney failure, seizure and stroke are all possible complications of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a condition that develops in about 15 percent of pediatric E. coli infections. Children under 10 are at most at risk for HUS because their immune systems have not fully developed.

County health authorities are working  with state and federal authorities to investigate the illnesses. Tests results from the patients, food and common environmental exposures could help to pinpoint the source of the illness.  Investigators say they will release the results of those tests when they are available.

At this point, health officials do not think Serena and Brad’s cases are linked to Brooklyn Hoksbergen’s case. Brooklyn, a 3-year-old Washington girl died Friday from an E. coli infection.

If your child has bloody diarrhea, see a doctor and discuss the possibility of an E.coli infection as treatment with antibiotics makes E. coli infections worse.

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